Six Local Women To Be Honored At Fannie Lou Hamer Awards Reception

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— Chosen from across Anne Arundel County, six trailblazing women will be honored during the 23rd annual Fannie Lou Hamer Awards Reception, held Sunday, Oct. 7, at 4 p.m. at the Frances Scott Key Auditorium at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md.

The reception celebrates the late civil rights heroine, Fannie Lou Hamer, as well as local civil rights heroes. Known for impacting their community through social justice or community outreach, each woman made a lasting mark on the Anne Arundel County community. Each of this year’s honorees—Amy Cruice, Argo Duenas, Leah Frazier, Vickie Gipson, Erika Johnson, and Kathleen Johnson—join the ranks of more than 100 notable women, including former Senator Barbara Mikulski.

Of note are Argo Duenas and Kathleen Johnson: Duenas is a military veteran and the first African American woman to establish a holistic health and wellness center in Annapolis. Kathleen Johnson, like Hamer, was one of the original marchers in the 1963 March on Washington, and continues her social activism to this day—even in her eighties. Other special guests will include Congressman John P. Sarbanes,; Mayor Gavin Buckley; Annapolis Alderwoman Elly Tierney; and St. John’s College President Panayiotis Kanelos.

A buffet reception will immediately follow the program. Tickets are $35 in advance, and will also be available at the door, with proceeds benefiting the Civil Rights Foot Soldier Memorial in Annapolis. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 301.538.6353 or 443-871-5656 or e-mail arankin58@hotmail.com. Contact Facebook pages; MLKMD or Carl Snowden for event details.

The event is sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. Committee of Anne Arundel County and co-sponsored by St. John’s College. Many previous winners will be in attendance and recognized. Other invited special guests include Congressman Anthony Brown; Senator Chris Van Hollen; Senator Ben Cardin; and Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch.

Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977) was an American voting rights activist, civil rights leader, and philanthropist. The awards that bear her name recognize women from various racial backgrounds who, while not necessarily household names, have excelled in their chosen fields while working diligently to improve civil and human rights in the region.

Hamer was the last of 20 children born to Mississippi sharecropper parents. She was instrumental in organizing Mississippi Freedom Summer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and later became the vice-chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, attending the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, N.J., in that capacity.

Erika Johnson of Annapolis is an alumna of Morgan State University (MSU) in Baltimore. While at MSU, Johnson developed the idea for the mentoring program, Pretty Girl Academy (PGA), Inc., designed to help teenage girls achieve personal goals throughout the school year. Attendees are taught to recognize their own beauty and self-worth.

Erika Johnson of Annapolis is an alumna of Morgan State University (MSU) in Baltimore. While at MSU, Johnson developed the idea for the mentoring program, Pretty Girl Academy (PGA), Inc., designed to help teenage girls achieve personal goals throughout the school year. Attendees are taught to recognize their own beauty and self-worth.

Kathleen Johnson, of Laurel, retired from the Rutgers University Library as a business administrator. Johnson is a member of the Anne Arundel West County Democrat Club and has participated in several of the club’s campaigns. Age is no obstacle for Johnson: Although she is more than 80 years old, Johnson recently helped campaign for the Maryland House of Delegates. election in 2018

Kathleen Johnson, of Laurel, retired from the Rutgers University Library as a business administrator. Johnson is a member of the Anne Arundel West County Democrat Club and has participated in several of the club’s campaigns. Age is no obstacle for Johnson: Although she is more than 80 years old, Johnson recently helped campaign for the Maryland House of Delegates. election in 2018

 Leah Frazier of Crofton is an attorney and mother, and has lived most of her life in Anne Arundel County and is a proud graduate of Annapolis High School. Frazier works at the Federal Trade Commission in the Bureau of Consumer Protection, where she focuses on financial services. She also serves as an organizer with We Persist–Women of Greater Anne Arundel.

Leah Frazier of Crofton is an attorney and mother, and has lived most of her life in Anne Arundel County and is a proud graduate of Annapolis High School. Frazier works at the Federal Trade Commission in the Bureau of Consumer Protection, where she focuses on financial services. She also serves as an organizer with We Persist–Women of Greater Anne Arundel.

Vickie Gipson, a longtime resident of Annapolis, is an attorney and an advocate for social change and justice and has worked with the Caucus of African American Leaders, the Anne Arundel County Branch of the NAACP, the Martin Luther King Jr. Committee, and various other local community and social justice organizations. Currently, she is a candidate for judge of the Anne Arundel County Orphans Court.

Vickie Gipson, a longtime resident of Annapolis, is an attorney and an advocate for social change and justice and has worked with the Caucus of African American Leaders, the Anne Arundel County Branch of the NAACP, the Martin Luther King Jr. Committee, and various other local community and social justice organizations. Currently, she is a candidate for judge of the Anne Arundel County Orphans Court.

Amy Cruice, of Annapolis is the legal program manager and director of the Know Your Rights training program for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland. (ACLU-MD). Beyond her work with the ACLU, Cruice works with the Caucus of African American Leaders and Eastport Working Together, volunteers for the South Sudan Hope Network, tutors ESL at Esperanza Center, and participates in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team.

Amy Cruice, of Annapolis is the legal program manager and director of the Know Your Rights training program for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland. (ACLU-MD). Beyond her work with the ACLU, Cruice works with the Caucus of African American Leaders and Eastport Working Together, volunteers for the South Sudan Hope Network, tutors ESL at Esperanza Center, and participates in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team.

Argo Duenas, an Annapolis native is the founder and owner of Back to Nature Health & Wellness Center, LLC, as well as a certified colon hydrotherapist, foot reflexologist, and Reiki practitioner. Duenas is a member of the International Association for Colon Hydrotherapy and the NAACP. Previously, she was a member of the American Business Women Association, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Dinner committee, served on the board of the Opportunities Industrialization Center of Anne Arundel County.

Argo Duenas, an Annapolis native is the founder and owner of Back to Nature Health & Wellness Center, LLC, as well as a certified colon hydrotherapist, foot reflexologist, and Reiki practitioner. Duenas is a member of the International Association for Colon Hydrotherapy and the NAACP. Previously, she was a member of the American Business Women Association, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Dinner committee, served on the board of the Opportunities Industrialization Center of Anne Arundel County.